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Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Ronald A. Lindahl

Committee Members

Karilee K. Freeberg, Russell F. West, W. Hal Knight


The purpose of this qualitative study was to give an in-depth description of the perceptions of students educated exclusively in rural, unit schools in East Tennessee. Specific areas addressed in the study included: (a) students’ perceptions and descriptions of their perspective schools; (b) feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the schooling experience; (c) relationships formed with students and adults; and (d) feelings of belonging or ownership; (e) students’ perceptions about the quality of education they have received; and (f) students’ comparisons of their school to other secondary schools.

The data were gathered through the process of the long interview with open-ended questions with eighteen juniors who had been educated in rural, unit schools in East Tennessee for the entirety of their educational experiences. The intent of the analysis was to utilize the direct quotes of the students whenever possible to present a clear representation of the students’ individual perceptions or “life-world.”

The findings of the study indicated some overall commonalities, specifically in students’ satisfaction with their schooling experiences, the strong relationships developed among the unit school family, a sense of belonging at the schools, and feelings of ownership. The students generally perceived that they had received a high quality education, but had recommendations for improvement. The students also perceived their schools as unique, in terms of the closeness, smallness, pride in their schools, the personal environment of the schools, and a family-like nature.

The results of this study should prove pertinent in the field of education and particularly to individuals involved in small school research and unit schooling.

Document Type

Dissertation - restricted


Copyright by the authors.